Marquess Conyngham, Slane Castle
S. Clarke, Great British & Irish Silver, Works of Art, Paintings. Catalogue of Acquisitions
A magnificent Victorian silver centrepiece commemorating William of Orange’s victory over King James II at the Battle of the Boyne by Robert Garrard, London. The centrepiece depicts two equestrian figures, the victorious William of Orange, with sword outstretched and an officer, Sir Albert Conyngham, doffing his hat in salute to his monarch whilst in front an artillery gunner attends to a barrel of cannon balls beside his cannon, all on a simulated grassy mound, the ebonised base affixed with two silver plaque, one depicting the Boyne Obelisk, the other depicting the defeated and dismounted James II being assisted by one of his soldiers whilst a groom secures his horse, either side with applied and cut-out arms of Conyngham flanked by horse and stag supporters.
Commissioned by the Conyngham family of Slane Castle to acknowledge the family’s involvement in the battle, Sir Albert, pictured on the centrepiece, raised a regiment of Dragoons for William and played an important part in the battle. Slane Castle, where this centrepiece would have once resided, was the family home of the Conynghams since 1701 and the river Boyne flows below the castle.
The Boyne Obelisk, featured on one of the plaques, was a monument to the battle of the Boyne, erected in 1736.
The Battle of the Boyne took place in 1690 between the English king, James II and his nephew the Dutch prince, William of Orange who was married to James’s daughter, Mary. Together William and Mary had overthrown James in 1688 and taken the English throne. The battle took place across the River Boyne near the town of Drogheda on the east coast of Ireland. William’s defeat of James sealed the latter’s failure to retake his throne and ensured the continued Protestant ascendancy in Ireland. To this day the Protestant Orange Order commemorates the battle in Northern Ireland and it is a constant source of sectarian tension between Ulster’s Protestants and Catholics. For the Jacobite supporters of James II, the battle was a part of a war fought for religious tolerance of Catholicism and disputed land ownership for the Catholic upper classes who had lost most of their land under Oliver Cromwell’s brutal conquest of Ireland in the mid-17th century and a desire for Irish autonomy which they believed James supported. For William and the Protestant cause, the war was about maintaining their rule in Ireland.
By 1802, Robert Garrard was in sole control of the firm of John Wakelin and William Taylor that he had bought into on the latter’s death in 1792. Later, with his sons the firm became R. J & S. Garrard and then later still R. & S. Garrard. In 1843, Garrard was appointed Crown Jeweller to Queen Victoria and became responsible for the upkeep of the Crown Jewels. In 1848 they produced the America’s Cup, the oldest international sporting trophy.